THROUGH THE LOCK

A runaway orphan’s search for a settled home ends along the banks of a newly-constructed Connecticut canal in this early-19th-century adventure, loosely based on Hurst’s own family history. Eager to find a place where she can be reunited with her separated brother and sister, Etta stumbles upon a seemingly abandoned canal foreman’s shack. The cabin’s not empty, however; Walter, a taciturn agemate hiding out from his abusive, alcoholic father has claimed it already, and isn’t exactly welcoming. Etta’s not one to beat a quiet retreat, though. Soon the two are working together, surreptitiously hauling in supplies and trying to dispose of the corpse of Walter’s father, who puts in a sudden appearance before proceeding to drink himself to death. Etta and Walter make an engaging pair, and their efforts to give Walter’s father a proper burial turn into a comedy of errors thanks to a too-helpful younger friend. In the end, coming to accept that her sibs are happy enough where they’ve ended up, Etta finds a place of her own, and a paying job too, helping to protect that stretch of the canal from threatened local farmers. It’s a satisfying outcome for a quick-paced tale that will please Paulsen and Kathleen Karr fans. (Fiction 10-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-03036-0

Page Count: 172

Publisher: Walter Lorraine/Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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WHEN EAGLES FALL

Thirteen-year-old Alexis has been “banished” (her word) by her mother, who lives in San Diego, to International Falls, Minnesota, where her father is the foremost authority on the bald eagle. He heads a small team who are banding eaglets and researching the eagles’ habitat. Alexis is immediately involved and learns quickly, though it’s difficult work and complicated further by the swarms of mosquitoes and hot weather. She resents her father’s authority and the team’s respect for him. In spite of this, she becomes fascinated with the birds and rashly decides to remove a fish lure from an eagle’s nest situated on a nearby island. Though successful in climbing the tree, she lifts an eaglet out of the nest and drops it. Then she loses the paddle to the canoe and finds herself stranded on an island with an injured eaglet. For two days she struggles with a storm, a visiting bear, and hunger. She manages to feed the eaglet and herself through fashioning a crude fishing rod. She finds shelter: an abandoned house on the island obviously not used for years. Surprisingly, it is a bat refuge, full of bat dung, with hundreds of bats returning in the evening. Knowing the eaglet must have assistance, in desperation, she sets the house on fire and is rescued. Throughout these difficulties, she finally allows herself to think of her little brother, who has recently died from cancer. Working through her grief, she realizes her father’s actions, which she so resented at the time, were a result of a grief as deep as her own. The ending is a bit pat, with the eagle flown to a healing center and her parents beginning to talk to each other. The tale moves along well and will be enjoyed particularly by readers of survivalist stories. The author’s note describes her hands-on research with eagle experts and includes several Web sites where naturalists can learn more. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-0665-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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NEVER CRY ``ARP!''

Stories about the author's childhood adventures growing up in a small town, including one in which a delinquent dog tangles with a skunk, and two in which eminently satisfying tricks are played on pompous bullies. Others involve youthful disasters, accident-prone friends, eccentric townsfolk, camp-outs, and crazy schemes. McManus is a sort of Dave Barry for kids. His stories are not merely amusing: They are laugh-out-loud, stomach-clutching, tears-rolling-down-your-cheeks hilarious. Factual or not, the names of people display a backwoods Dickensian humor, from Rancid Crabtree, the old woodsman, to a friend, Retch Sweeney, and his two kid brothers, Erful and Verman, and to Miss Goosehart, a teacher at Delmore Blight Grade School. The humor is often broad, but its expression is matter-of-fact; McManus writes for those with good vocabularies who can read between the lines. Really comic stories that also treat this audience with intelligence are something of a rarity; this collection is as welcome as lemonade in the desert. (Short stories. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8050-4662-3

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1996

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